Chapter 70
 Samson’s Arrest and Retaliation [Judges 15.9-15.20]


Scripture (KJV) Judges 15.9-20

He is bound by the men of Judah and delivered to the Philistines

9 Then the Philistines went up, and pitched in Judah, and spread themselves in Lehi.
10 And the men of Judah said, Why are ye come up against us? And they answered, To bind Samson are we come up, to do to him as he hath done to us.
11 Then three thousand men of Judah went to the top of the rock Etam, and said to Samson, Knowest thou not that the Philistines are rulers over us? what is this that thou hast done unto us? And he said unto them, As they did unto me, so have I done unto them.
12 And they said unto him, We are come down to bind thee, that we may deliver thee into the hand of the Philistines. And Samson said unto them, Swear unto me, that ye will not fall upon me yourselves.
13 And they spake unto him, saying, No; but we will bind thee fast, and deliver thee into their hand: but surely we will not kill thee. And they bound him with two new cords, and brought him up from the rock.
14 And when he came unto Lehi, the Philistines shouted against him: and the Spirit of the LORD came mightily upon him, and the cords that were upon his arms became as flax that was burnt with fire, and his bands loosed from off his hands.
15 And he found a new jawbone of an ass, and put forth his hand, and took it, and slew a thousand men therewith.
16 And Samson said, With the jawbone of an ass, heaps upon heaps, with the jaw of an ass have I slain a thousand men.
17 And it came to pass, when he had made an end of speaking, that he cast away the jawbone out of his hand, and called that place Ramathlehi.
God makes the fountain En-hakkore for him
18 And he was sore athirst, and called on the LORD, and said, Thou hast given this great deliverance into the hand of thy servant: and now shall I die for thirst, and fall into the hand of the uncircumcised?
19 But God clave an hollow place that was in the jaw, and there came water thereout; and when he had drunk, his spirit came again, and he revived: wherefore he called the name thereof Enhakkore, which is in Lehi unto this day.
20 And he judged Israel in the days of the Philistines twenty years.




The action takes place at The top of the rock Etam. It is very likely that this is the same place as that mentioned 1 Chronicles 4:32, “And their villages were, Etam…” It was in the tribe of Simeon, and on the borders of Dan, and probably a fortified place.

The situation that exists is that Judah surrenders Samson to the Philistines, which shows just how much they are under the thumb of the Philistines; they would rather please their oppressors than support their deliverer. The large number of men who went to arrest him is a tribute to his strength and bravery.

It must have been discouraging for Samson to hear the words; Do you not know that the Philistines rule over us? It was Israel accepting enslavement from pagan masters. What makes us accept an evil rule over us? Fear.
If Samson could attack the Philistines, then the Philistines could retaliate and attack Israel; after all, Israel had neither weapons nor an army. The invasion of Israel didn’t help Samson’s popularity with his own people, who were content to submit to their neighbors and make the best of a bad situation. Instead of seeing Samson as their deliverer, the men of Judah considered him a troublemaker. It is difficult to be a leader, if you have no followers, but part of the fault lay with Samson. He didn’t challenge the people, organize them, and trust God to give them the victory. He preferred to work alone, fighting the battles of the Lord as if they were his own private feuds.

This incident also shows Samson's great faith; he is willing to put himself in a difficult position, trusting that God will take care of him.


9 Then the Philistines went up, and pitched in Judah, and spread themselves in Lehi.—Judges 15.9 (KJV)
9 Then the Philistines went up, and encamped in Judah, and spread themselves in Lehi.—Judges 15.9 (ASV)

Then the Philistines went up…The Philistines came (“went up,” denoting the advance of an army: see [1]Joshua 8:1) to avenge themselves for the defeat they had incurred at the hand of Samson. This force moved from their own country in the [2]Shephelah to the hill country of Judah.

and pitched in Judah;…in the land of Judea; that is, in the land belonging to the tribe of Judah, and there they made their camp.

and spread themselves in [3]Lehi;…their forces were so many, that they extended a considerable way, and as it says here, the encampment reached to Lehi; which was only given this name after the incident with the “jawbone” ( see verses 15-17), with which Samson slew many in this place. According to verse 17 Samson gave the place the name Ramath-lechi (the shortened version being Lehi.) The name has been changed to El-Lekieh in modern times; today it abounds with limestone cliffs; the sides of which are perforated with caves.
The object of the Philistines in this expedition was to apprehend Samson, and take revenge for the great slaughter he had committed on their people. The expression “spread themselves” is used to describe the Philistine mode of war, alluding to the compact way in which they came up the wadi, and then dispersed.

___________verse 9 notes____________
[1](Joshua 8.1; KJV) And the LORD said unto Joshua, Fear not, neither be thou dismayed: take all the people of war with thee, and arise, go up to Ai: see, I have given into thy hand the king of Ai, and his people, and his city, and his land: Take all the people of war with thee—From this verse it appears that all that were capable of carrying arms were to march out of the camp on this occasion: thirty thousand chosen men formed an ambuscade in one place; five thousand he placed in another, who had all gained their positions in the night: with the rest of the army he appeared the next morning before Ai, which the men of that city would naturally suppose were the whole of the Israelitish forces; and consequently be even more emboldened to come out and attack them.

[2]Shephelah: The Shephelah (Hebrew: הַשְּפֵלָה‎‎, "the lowland"; also שְׁפֵלַת יְהוּדָה, Shephelat Yehuda, "Judean lowland") is a designation usually applied to the region in south-central Israel of 10-15 km of low hills between the central Mount Hebron and the coastal plains of Philistia within the area of the Judea, at an altitude of 120-450 metres above sea level. The area is fertile, and a temperate Mediterranean to semi-arid climate prevails there. Shephelah was one of the regions allotted to the biblical Judah. It is mentioned by name in Deuteronomy 1:7; Joshua 9:1; 10:40; 11:2, 16; 12:8; 15:33; Judges 1:9; 1 Kings 10:27; Jeremiah 17:26; 32:44; 33:13; Obadiah 1:19; Zechariah 7:7; 1 Chronicles 27:28; 2 Chronicles 1:15; 9:27;26:10; 28:18

[3]Lehi: or, rather, hal-Lehi, the Lehi. The place was given this name after the event recorded later in this chapter (see verses 15 and 20); the name means “jawbone.” Lehi has been identified by some with Tell-el-Lekhiyeh, four miles above Beer-sheba; and by others with Beit-Likiyeh, in the Wady Suleiman, two miles below the upper Beth-heron, and so within easy distance of Timnath and other places mentioned in the history of Samson. But, its location cannot be established with certainty, at present.


10 And the men of Judah said, Why are ye come up against us? And they answered, To bind Samson are we come up, to do to him as he hath done to us.—Judges 15.10 (KJV)
10 And the men of Judah said, Why are ye come up against us? And they said, To bind Samson are we come up, to do to him as he hath done to us.—Judges 15.10 (ASV)

And the men of Judah said…to the Philistines, very probably by a deputation, which they sent to them, to find out the reason for this formidable armed force that currently bivouacked within the territory of Judea. They were a more formidable force than the one they had when Samson smote them hip and thigh. Now, they were spread out up and down the country, because they heard that Samson had come this way.

why are ye come up against us? this hostile manner, with such a numerous force? It was reasonable for them to ask this question, since they were not aware of anything they had done to offend them. They had not attempted to cast off their tyrannical yoke; they quietly submitted to their regime, and had paid them the tribute they asked for, and as Josephus alludes to them saying, they had no idea what all of this meant.

and they answered, to bind Samson are we come up;… The Philistines sent a thousand men on this mission, which is an indication of their fear of Samson and their determination to capture him. Such a large military presence was sent to intimidate the Israelites into betraying Samson; to tie him up, and deliver him into their hands; and once he was their prisoner, they would punish him. It seems they did not wish to create an open break with the Israelites, provided they would hand over Samson, who was the cause of their tragedy; but, they were willing to declare war on Judah if Judah insisted on protecting Samson.

to do to him as he hath done to us:…to put him to death for the great slaughter he had committed on their people.


11 Then three thousand men of Judah went to the top of the rock Etam, and said to Samson, Knowest thou not that the Philistines are rulers over us? what is this that thou hast done unto us? And he said unto them, As they did unto me, so have I done unto them.—Judges 15.11 (KJV)
11 Then three thousand men of Judah went down to the cleft of the rock of Etam, and said to Samson, Knowest thou not that the Philistines are rulers over us? what then is this that thou hast done unto us? And he said unto them, As they did unto me, so have I done unto them.—Judges 15.11 (ASV)

Then three thousand of Judah [4]went up to the top of the rock of Etam…Or "went down" into the cave in the rock of Etam, according to the Septuagint and Vulgate Latin versions. David de Pomis asserts that this was a man-made cave, dug into the rock of Etam.

When the Judeans learned the purpose of this invasion by the Philistines, three thousand of them went down to the cleft (cave) in the rock Etam, to bind Samson and turn him over to the Philistines. Three thousand men to take one man may seem like overkill; but, the reason is, they knew of his great strength.

and said to Samson, knowest thou not that the Philistines are rulers over us?... The language of these cowardly men shows how completely the Philistine yoke was fastened upon the necks of Judah. The history of Israel gives no account of the Philistine conquest; except the brief mention in [5]Judges 10:6, 7; but Samson’s story brings to light the existence of it. The miserable state to which they were reduced is shown by their complaint to Samson, “What is this that thou hast done unto us?;” instead of acknowledging him as a deliverer. It would have been a very unwise thing for the men of Judah to do anything to provoke their Philistine antagonist, when it lay in their power to oppress them even more than they had already, to increase their tribute, and make their burdens heavier, and even take away their lives.

knowest thou not that the Philistines are rulers over us?...This was an exaggeration on the part of the men of Judah. "The Philistines never ruled over all Judah, but they held iron domination and were a real threat to that part of Judah which lay in the Shephelah (the lowlands west from Jerusalem)."

what is this that thou hast done unto us?...note; they do not ask what he had done to the Philistines, but unto us (Judeans); because what he had done to the Philistines was the justification for their incursion into Judah and the threat they posed to them, which could eventually result in the Philistines treating them cruelly and even killing many of them.

Now, the disheartened men of Judah were prepared to give up their champion, in order to appease their masters. This shows how difficult a task it was for a judge to restore his countrymen to freedom and independence.
and he said unto them, as they did unto me, so have I done to them;…they had treated him cruelly, and therefore he did worse to them; they had burnt his wife and her father to death, and he had massacred many of them; at least this was what he thought he should say in his own defense. However, what he did was not an act of private revenge, but instead, it was on account of what they had done to Israel; he is taking what they had done to Israel and applying it to himself, as the chief magistrate and judge of Israel.
The men of Judah, who had tamely submitted to their yoke, pleaded that they had paid their tribute, and that no one from their tribe had given them any reason to be offended, they admitted that the only reason for the invasion was to seize Samson; they did not want to fight anyone. Their only mission was to capture Samson and to do to him as he has done to us, that is, to smite his hip and thigh, as he did ours—an eye for an eye. Here was an army sent against one man, because indeed he was himself an army. Hundreds of years later, a whole band of men was sent to seize our Lord Jesus, that blessed Samson, though one soldier would have served now that his hour had come, and ten times as many would have done nothing if he had not accepted His Father’s will.
It is enlightening to read Samson’s defense, because looking back to verse 10, we see that he used the same words used by the Philistines: “And the men of Judah said, Why are ye come up against us? And they answered, To bind Samson are we come up, TO DO TO HIM AS HE HATH DONE TO US.” It is very similar to the well known verse, “An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.”

___________verse 11 notes____________
[4]went up. Heb. “went down.” The rock Etam was probably near the town Etam, mentioned in 1 Chronicles 4:32: “And their villages were, Etam, and Ain, Rimmon, and Tochen, and Ashan, five cities:”

[5](Judges 10.6, 7; KJV) “And the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the LORD, and served Baalim, and Ashtaroth, and the gods of Syria, and the gods of Zidon, and the gods of Moab, and the gods of the children of Ammon, and the gods of the Philistines, and forsook the LORD, and served not him...And the anger of the LORD was hot against Israel, and he sold them into the hands of the Philistines, and into the hands of the children of Ammon.”


12 And they said unto him, We are come down to bind thee, that we may deliver thee into the hand of the Philistines. And Samson said unto them, Swear unto me, that ye will not fall upon me yourselves.—Judges 15.12 (KJV)
12 And they said unto him, We are come down to bind thee, that we may deliver thee into the hand of the Philistines. And Samson said unto them, Swear unto me, that ye will not fall upon me yourselves.—Judges 15.12 (ASV)

And they said unto him, we are come down to bind thee…That is, they went down into the cave where he was; otherwise it was probably the case that they went up to the top of the rock.
Samson was shamefully betrayed and handed over by the men of Judah (Degenerate branches of that valiant tribe, and utterly unworthy to display in their pennant the lion of the tribe of Judah.). Perhaps they were indifferent toward Samson because he was not from their tribe. Out of a foolish fondness for their forfeited primacy among the twelve tribes, they would rather be oppressed by Philistines than rescued by a Danite. The church’s growth has often been obstructed by such jealousies and pretended points of honor. To a certain extent, they would give up Samson, because they stood in awe of the Philistines, and were willing to do almost anything, to get them out of their country. If their spirits had not been cowed and broken by their sins and troubles, they would have taken this advantageous opportunity to shake off the Philistine’s yoke. If they had had the least spark of ingenuousness and courage remaining in them, and having such a brave a man as Samson to lead them, they would have made a bold struggle for the recovery of their liberty. But, we should not consider it to be such an amazing thing if those that had degraded themselves to hell by the worship of their dung-hill gods [6](Isaiah 57:9) would humiliate themselves in the dust, in submission to their insulting oppressors.

Sin is the most terrible thing, because it breaks the spirit of men, it infatuates them, and hides from their eyes the things that are responsible for their peace. Probably Samson went to Judea to offer his service, supposing his brethren would have understood how that God by his hand would deliver them, as Moses did; [7]Acts. 7:25. But instead, they pushed him away from them, and very deceitfully too. They blamed him for what he had done to the Philistines, as if he had done them a great injury. Such ungrateful treatment has often been received by those that have done the best imaginable service for their country. That is true of those returning from the war in Vietnam during the 1960’s and 1970’s. Our Lord Jesus did many good works, and for these they were ready to stone him. Samson’s countrymen begged him to permit them to tie him up, and then turn him over to the Philistines. Cowardly unthankful wretches! Could they be fond of their shackles and in love with servitude! Likewise the Jews delivered up our Savior, under the pretence of a fear that the Romans would come and take away their place and nation. What a sordid, bootlicking spirit is behind their words, Knowest thou not that the Philistines rule over us? And whose fault was that? They knew they had no right to rule over them and that they would not have been sold into their hands if they had not first sold themselves to work wickedness.

that we may deliver thee into the hands of the Philistines;…they admit what their intention was in tying him up, and why they did it; it was not due to anything they held against him, but for fear of the Philistines.

and Samson said unto them, swear unto me that ye will not fall upon me yourselves;…which shows he did not fear them, even though they were 3000 strong; and that if they attempted to kill him, he would defend himself. But he chose not to shed the blood of any of them; and rather than to place them in danger of being injured or killed by the Philistines, he allowed them to tie him up (see verse13), and then give him to his enemies. In this, he was a type of Christ, who was betrayed by the Jews, and delivered by them into the hands of the Romans; and though he could have called 10,000 angels, he did not, but instead He allowed His enemies to take Him and bind Him, and give Him into the hands of the Romans, so that his own people might go free; see ([8]John 18:4-12).

We may find that it is very difficult NOT to be disgusted with the conduct of the Judahites in this situation. They were perfectly willing to betray a brother into the hands of the enemy, instead of rallying to his defense. Nevertheless, there was a magnanimous streak in Samson, because he consented to the request of his brethren to bind him with ropes, but first he made them swear that THEY THEMSELVES would not slay him.
They really missed the boat, because, instead of recognizing in Samson a deliverer whom the Lord had raised up for them, and rallying around him so that they might defeat their oppressors with his help and drive them out of their land, the men of Judah were so degraded, that they cast this accusation at Samson: “Knowest thou not that the Philistines rule over us? Wherefore hast thou done this (the exploit described in [9]Judges 15:8)? We have come down to bind thee, and deliver thee into the hand of the Philistines.” Samson replied, “Swear to me that ye will not [10]
fall upon me yourselves.” He could not bear the thought of fighting with and slaying his own countrymen; for there is no doubt that he could have as easily rescued himself from their hands as from those of the Philistines.

____________verse 12 notes______________
[6](Isaiah 57:9; KJV) 9 And thou wentest to the king with ointment, and didst increase thy perfumes, and didst send thy messengers far off, and didst debase thyself even unto hell. the king -- the idol which they came to worship, perfumed with oil, like harlots (Jer 4:30 Eze 23:16, 40). So "king" means idol (Am 5:26 Zep 1:5); (malcham meaning "king") [ROSENMULLER]. Rather, the king of Assyria or Egypt, and other foreign princes, on whom Israel relied, instead of on God; the "ointment" will thus refer to the presents (Ho 12:1), and perhaps the compliances with foreigners idolatries, whereby Israel sought to gain their favor [LOWTH] (Isa 30:6 Ezek 16:33 Ezek 23:16 Ho 7:11).—Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary

[7](Acts. 7:25; GW) 24 When he saw an Israelite man being treated unfairly by an Egyptian, he defended the Israelite. He took revenge by killing the Egyptian. He supposed his brethren would have understood, etc.—He probably imagined that, as he felt from the Divine influence he was appointed to be their deliverer, they would have his Divine appointment signified to them in a similar way; and the act of justice which he now did in behalf of his oppressed countryman would be sufficient to show them that he was now ready to enter upon his office, if they were willing to concur.—Adam Clarke's Commentary

[8](John 18:4-12; KJV) 4 Jesus therefore, knowing all things that should come upon him, went forth, and said unto them, Whom seek ye? 5 They answered him, Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus saith unto them, I am he. And Judas also, which betrayed him, stood with them. 6 As soon then as he had said unto them, I am he, they went backward, and fell to the ground. 7 Then asked he them again, Whom seek ye? And they said, Jesus of Nazareth. 8 Jesus answered, I have told you that I am he: if therefore ye seek me, let these go their way: 9 That the saying might be fulfilled, which he spake, Of them which thou gavest me have I lost none. 10 Then Simon Peter having a sword drew it, and smote the high priest's servant, and cut off his right ear. The servant's name was Malchus. 11 Then said Jesus unto Peter, Put up thy sword into the sheath: the cup which my Father hath given me, shall I not drink it? 12 Then the band and the captain and officers of the Jews took Jesus, and bound him,

[9](Judges 15:8; GW)  8 So he attacked them violently and slaughtered them. Then he went to live in a cave in the cliff at Etam.

[10]fall upon me: to thrust at a person, including in this case, the intention of killing.


13 And they spake unto him, saying, No; but we will bind thee fast, and deliver thee into their hand: but surely we will not kill thee. And they bound him with two new cords, and brought him up from the rock.—Judges 15.13 (KJV)
13 And they spake unto him, saying, No; but we will bind thee fast, and deliver thee into their hand: but surely we will not kill thee. And they bound him with two new ropes, and brought him up from the rock.—Judges 15.13 (ASV)

And they spake unto him, saying, no…They declared they would not assault him and kill him themselves; neither would the Jews put Christ to death themselves, though they were virtually his betrayers and murderers, [11](John 18:31).

but we will bind thee fast and deliver thee into their hands;…The Jews did the same thing to Christ; they secured him with ropes, and then, they delivered him first to the high priest, and later to the Roman governor, [12](Matthew 27:2).

but surely we will not kill thee:… They promised him this, and then he surrendered. The men of Judah would not only be his betrayers, but, they were in effect his murderers; and are charged with it, as was those who delivered Christ to the Romans; [13](Acts 2:23,36). They would not kill him themselves, but they would be an accessory to it. They did something far worse, they delivered him into the hands of the uncircumcised Philistines. They knew that this enemy would do much worse than kill him; they would abuse and torment him to death. Perhaps they thought, as some suppose Judas did, when he betrayed Christ, he believed that Jesus would by his great strength deliver himself out of their hands. But no thanks to them if he had delivered himself, and, if they thought he would do so, they might have assumed that he could and would deliver them too if they would believe in him and make him their leader. Unfortunately, they would rather betray their brother than use the means that God had given for their deliverance.

and they bound him with two new cords;…not with one rope only, in case it should not be enough to hold him, knowing his strength, but with two, and these were not old worn out ropes, but new ones, just made (perhaps made especially for this occasion), and they were very strong. Joseph Kimchi, according to Ben Melech, noted that these ropes were of special construction; they were made of three cords or thongs, for greater security; and the material was flax, as the following verse alludes to. At the time, such rope was considered the strongest and able to hold anything; hence nets were made of flax to hold creatures in, fish, fowl, or animal. Probably one rope was used to tie his hands and the other to tie his feet.

Samson submissively yielded to his countrymen, and let them deliver him into the hands of his enraged enemies. How easily he could have beaten them off, and defended the top of his rock against these 3000 men, and none of them could have laid hands on him; but he patiently submitted to them:
1. So that he might present an example of great meekness, mixed with great strength and courage; the same as one that had rule over his own spirit, he knew how to yield as well as how to conquer.
2. So that, after being handed over to the Philistine, he might have an opportunity to slaughter many of them.
3. So that he might be a type of Christ, who, when he had shown what he could do, by killing and maiming those who came to seize him, he yielded to this crowd of 3000 and let them tie him up and lead him away as a lamb to the slaughter. Samson justified himself in what he had done against the Philistines: He said, “As they did to me, so I did to them.” In other words, what he did was both necessary and just, and they should not retaliate, because they were the ones that started it.

and brought him up from the rock;…When they promised him this; but surely we will not kill thee, he let them bind him with two new cords and lead him out of the cave in the rock and up to the top of the rock and into the camp of the Philistines. For this their misery was rightly prolonged, because in order to oblige their worst enemies, they abuse their best friend. Apparently, they were satisfied with the status quo. Never were men so obsessed, except those who treated our blessed Savior in a similar manner.

Observe: This is the only time during Samson’s judgeship that the Jews mustered an army, and it was for the purpose of capturing one of their own men! But Samson realized that, if he didn’t give himself up to the enemy, the Philistine army would bring untold suffering to the land; so he willingly surrendered. If he defended himself, he would have to fight his own people. If he escaped, which he could have easily done, he would have left 3000 men of Judah easy prey for the Philistine army. There was something heroic about Samson’s decision, but the men of Judah missed it.

____________verse 13 notes______________
[11](John 18:31; KJV) 31 Then said Pilate unto them, Take ye him, and judge him according to your law. The Jews therefore said unto him, It is not lawful for us to put any man to death:

[12](Matthew 27:2; KJV) 2 And when they had bound him, they led him away, and delivered him to Pontius Pilate the governor.

[13](Acts 2:23,36; GW) 23 By using men who don't acknowledge Moses' Teachings, you crucified Jesus, who was given over {to death} by a plan that God had determined in advance…36 “All the people of Israel should know beyond a doubt that God made Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”


14 And when he came unto Lehi, the Philistines shouted against him: and the Spirit of the LORD came mightily upon him, and the cords that were upon his arms became as flax that was burnt with fire, and his bands loosed from off his hands.—Judges 15.14 (KJV)
14 When he came unto Lehi, the Philistines shouted as they met him: and the Spirit of Jehovah came mightily upon him, and the ropes that were upon his arms became as flax that was burnt with fire, and his bands dropped from off his hands.—Judges 15.14 (ASV)

And when he came unto Lehi…Lehi was the name given to this place after Samson made it legendary by what he did there, which is described in the following verses. Its former name is unknown. The 3,000 men of Judah led him there, where the Philistines waited to take charge of him (see verse 9); either to put him to death, or keep him in permanent confinement. According to Bunting, Lehi was located six miles from Etam, and was occupied by the Philistines, at this time.

the Philistines shouted against him:…They shouted as they ran to meet him, and when they had him in their hands, they shouted for joy because he was securely bound with two strong ropes, and they thought he was in their power and that they had nothing to fear from him. His capture was a matter of public rejoicing. However, if God had not tied their hands faster and more securely than the men of Judah tied his, their archers would have shot at him (as their archers did at Saul) to kill him immediately, rather than to shout insults at him and give him time to recover and prepare himself for a brawl. As it turned out, their shouting and joy was only a precursor of their annihilation.

and the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon him:…as it had done before; the Targum is, “the Spirit of might from the Lord.” The Spirit gave him courage, determination, and great bodily strength, more than He had at other times, for a token of the wonders of God.

and the cords that were upon his arms became as flax that was burnt with fire;…The meaning of this is evidently that, “Samson broke and discarded the ropes he was bound with as easily as if they had been the residue of burnt flax.” He broke free from his bonds so easily that all those who saw it were greatly amazed and filled with terror; their shouts of joy were turned into shrieks.

The phrase, “as flax that was burnt with fire” signifies how the LORD dealt with his bonds; they lost all their strength and became as weak as half-burned flax which yields to the least pressure.

and his bonds loosed (were melted) from off his hands;…It appears from this that both arms and hands were bound with the ropes; his arms were pinned down close to his body, and his hands were tied together; and these, "melted away", like wax before the fire, or snow before the sun. This may be a symbol of Christ's liberating himself from the cords of death, [13](Acts 2:24).

Observe, When the Spirit of the Lord came upon him, his cords were loosed. Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty, and those are free indeed who are freed by the Spirit. This typified the resurrection of Christ by the power of the Spirit of holiness. In it he loosed the bands of death, and its cords, the grave-clothes, fell from his hands without being loosed, as Lazarus’s were, because it was impossible that the mighty Savior should be enclosed in them; and thus he triumphed over the powers of darkness that shouted against him, as if they had him for sure.

_____________verse 14 notes_________________
[13](Acts 2:24; KJV) 24 Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it.


15 And he found a new jawbone of an ass, and put forth his hand, and took it, and slew a thousand men therewith.—Judges 15.15 (KJV)
15 And he found a fresh jawbone of an ass, and put forth his hand, and took it, and smote a thousand men therewith. —Judges 15.15 (ASV)

And he found a new jawbone of an ass,…that is, the jawbone of an ass that had been recently killed, which perhaps retained some flesh on it, or, depending on the age of the bone and the climate, there was dried blood and decaying matter on it. Jarchi says, he read in the books of physicians, that the word used here signifies the sanies (a thin, often greenish, serous fluid that is discharged from ulcers, wounds, etc.) or decaying matter of a wound; however, it was moist, and fresh, and so it was also tough and strong, and could be used like a club to strike hard blows. And perhaps the asses of those countries, and at that time, were larger than ours, and so their jawbones were bigger and stronger. If it was an old jawbone, it would have been dry and brittle.

and put forth his hand and took it;…it was lying on the ground near him, having been placed there by the providence of God at the time and place where his cords were loosed from him, and he reached down and picked it up. Observe how poorly he was armed. A jaw-bone was an awkward thing to grasp, and, one would think it might easily be wrestled out of his hand, and that after a few hard blows as he was certain to give, it might have been crushed and broken, and yet it held-up good until Samson delivered the last blow. Had it been the jaw-bone of a lion, especially the one he had slain, it might have helped to heighten his reputation and to make him think of himself as more formidable than he was; but to take the bone of that despicable animal was to do wonders by the foolish things of the world, that the excellency of the power might be of God and not of man.

and slew one thousand men therewith,…With the inspiration of freeing his own countrymen from the danger embodied in the one thousand infuriated Philistines, he surrendered and allowed himself to be tied-up and treated like a prisoner. Exuding joy at the near prospect of being rid of so formidable an enemy, the Philistines, went to meet him, and gathered about him to make sport with him. But he exerted his superhuman strength, and finding a new jawbone of an ass, he took hold of it; but the sight of Samson and his possession of such a weapon, terrified the contingent of Philistines and threw them into a panic. They offered no resistance, and became an easy prey to the blows of their mighty foe. Some, perhaps died when they fell down the cliffs in their flight. What could anyone think was too hard or too much, for him to do, on whom the Spirit of the Lord came mightily! Through God we shall do valiantly. Observe: It seems strange that the men of Judah did not come to his aid: cowards can strike a falling enemy. But he was to be a type of him that trod the wine-press alone.

Due to his great strength, every blow he gave in all probability killed a man; there have been wonderful things done by mighty warriors, but none rise to this level. These mighty warriors have used warlike weapons to destroy many. We are familiar with these weapons, because they are shown in movies and History books, and displayed  in museums and private homes; weapons such as the sword, spear, and bow and arrow. Samson, however, used a very unconventional weapon to kill a thousand men at a place which he called Ramath-lehi--that is, "the hill of the jawbone." He made a great slaughter of a thousand Philistines, although he had no better weapon than the jaw-bone of an ass. He never laid it down until he had killed a thousand Philistines with it; and thus that promise was more than accomplished; One of you shall chase a thousand, [14]Joshua 23:10.

One of David's mighty men slew three hundred men at one time with his spear, [15](1 Chronicles 11:11); and Scanderbeg slew great numbers of the Turks with his sword, at different times; but what comes nearest to Samson’s accomplishments is Shamgar's killing six hundred Philistines with an ox goad, [16](Judges 3:31). This may be a representation of the weak and contemptible methods of the Gospel, the foolishness of preaching, by which Christ has conquered and subdued multitudes to himself. 

_____________verse 15 notes_________________
[14](Joshua 23:10; KJV) 10 One man of you shall chase a thousand: for the LORD your God, he it is that fighteth for you, as he hath promised you.

[15](1 Chronicles 11:11 (KJV) 11 And this is the number of the mighty men whom David had; Jashobeam, an Hachmonite, the chief of the captains: he lifted up his spear against three hundred slain by him at one time.

[16](Judges 3:31; GW) 31 After Ehud came Shamgar, son of Anath. He killed 600 Philistines with a sharp stick used for herding oxen. So he, too, rescued Israel.



16 And Samson said, With the jawbone of an ass, heaps upon heaps, with the jaw of an ass have I slain a thousand men.—Judges 15.16 (KJV)
16 And Samson said, With the jawbone of an ass, heaps upon heaps, With the jawbone of an ass have I smitten a thousand men.—Judges 15.16 (ASV)

And Samson said… As soon as he was relieved of his restraints, he picked up a fresh jaw-bone of an ass, which he found there, and with it he destroyed a thousand men. He commemorated this victory with a short poetic limerick: “With the jawbone of an ass, heaps upon heaps, with the jaw of an ass have I slain a thousand men.” We are not given a detailed description of how Samson achieved this victory, but the words heaps upon heaps should be rendered “a heap, two heaps,” which leads us to the conclusion that the struggle did not take place in one encounter, but in several.

with the jawbone of an ass, heaps upon heaps;…When the Philistines thought they had him safely in their power, Samson easily broke the ropes they bound him with. This display of supernatural strength filled them with fear and awe as if they were in the presence of a superior being. They tried to get away, but he pursued them, battering first one and then another with an ass's jaw-bone, until they were all dead and their bodies piled in one heap after another. The number given, that is, a thousand slain, is of course a round number signifying a very great multitude, and has been adopted from the song into the historical account.

Samson celebrated his victory alone, since the men of Judah would not do even that for him. He composed a short song, which he sang to himself, since the daughters of Israel did not meet him, as afterwards they did Saul, with more reason, to sing, Samson hath slain his thousands. The scope of this song was, With the jaw-bone of an ass, heaps upon heaps, have I slain a thousand men, meaning, “I have piled them in heaps.” The same word in Hebrew (chamor) signifies both an ass and a heap, so that this is an elegant witticism, and represents the Philistines falling as tamely as asses.

with the jaw of an ass have I slain a thousand men:…this he said not in a proud and haughty manner, taking all the credit himself, as Josephus suggests; but instead he takes notice of the lowly instrument he used; which showed that he was a sensible man who realized that it was not done by his own power, but by the power of God, which enabled him by such weak means to do such wonderful things. There is no doubt that this was a great feat, but the lack of follow-up indicates both Samson’s failure as a leader, and the depth of Judean acceptance of its plight.

"In Hebrew, the words for `ass' and `heaps' are the same"; and many have pointed out that what we have here is “word play,” along with the spirit of riddle-making. James Moffatt in his translation of Judges rendered the passage thus:

"With the jawbone of an ASS I have piled them in a MASS!
With the jawbone of an ass, I have assailed assailants!"

Moffatt's rendition is acceptable except that it does not take into account "the thousand men," which we accept as an authentic and dependable part of the narrative.


17 And it came to pass, when he had made an end of speaking, that he cast away the jawbone out of his hand, and called that place Ramathlehi. —Judges 15.17 (KJV)
17 And it came to pass, when he had made an end of speaking, that he cast away the jawbone out of his hand; and that place was called Ramath-lehi.—Judges 15.17 (ASV)

And it came to pass, when he had made an end of speaking…that is, he stopped singing the above song about the heaps of slain Philistines, which very probably consisted of much more than what is expressed here.  The word that has been rendered here as “speaking,” can also be rendered destroying as in [17]2 Chronicles 22.10.                                                                                                                                                          

that he cast away the jawbone out of his hand;…which he held in his hand and used as a weapon to crush the heads of a thousand Philistines, but once he was done with this business of killing, he did not carry the bone with him to show it off, and he did not act pompously, but instead, he threw it away. It seems that relics had little value then.

and called the place Ramathlehi;…the place where the jawbone was thrown away and the carnage ended; but Ben Gersom thinks it was a high place where it was thrown, and so it signifies the elevation or lifting up of the "jawbone", as the Septuagint version renders it. Samson gave the place the name Ramathlehi, to perpetuate the Philistines’ disgrace. Ramath-lehi, the lifting up of the jaw-bone. We are not told if this place had a name before Samson gave it this one. The fact of a certain place having been thus named is a very strong evidence of the integrity and authenticity of this narrative, as is also the matter of the name of the spring which gushed out of the rock to save Samson's life (see verse 18).

_______verse 17 notes_________
[17](2 Chronicles 22:10; KJV) 10 But when Athaliah the mother of Ahaziah saw that her son was dead, she arose and destroyed all the seed royal of the house of Judah


18 And he was sore athirst, and called on the LORD, and said, Thou hast given this great deliverance into the hand of thy servant: and now shall I die for thirst, and fall into the hand of the uncircumcised?—Judges 15.18 (KJV)
18 And he was sore athirst, and called on Jehovah, and said, Thou hast given this great deliverance by the hand of thy servant; and now shall I die for thirst, and fall into the hand of the uncircumcised.—Judges 15.18 (ASV)

And he was sore athirst…The incredible exertions which he had made when pursuing and slaying the Philistines put his life in danger; he thought he could die from thirst, and be found and abused by his uncircumcised foes.

Josephus believes this terrible thirst came upon him like a reprimand from the Lord, for him taking credit for the victory he had obtained over his and Israel’s enemies. He gives credit to his own strength, and not to the Lord; therefore, he was shown his own weakness, and how easily his strength could be reduced; but this thinking does not appear to hold water. If you have ever played a sport or fought with a bully, you know that it is only natural to feel exhausted and extremely thirsty after a period of great exertion. And what had Samson done that would leave him thirsty: He was bound with ropes; he exerted himself, broke the cords, chased 1000 men until he killed them all with an ass’s jawbone; and then he celebrated his victory with a song of triumph. Observe, by the providence of God, Samson might be a type of the Messiah who on the cross, as he was conquering principalities and powers, and triumphing over them, said, "I thirst", [18](John 19:28).

God will provide for Samson in a miraculous way. Poole comments on Samson's great thirst, saying; it was "partly sent by God, that by the experience of his own impotency he might be forced to ascribe the victory to God only, and not to himself." It happens in those times when we are flushed with victory that we need to be reminded all the more that we are totally, completely, dependent on God. We will see that “God's work, done God's way, will always be provided for by God”; the Lord will show His faithfulness to Samson by supplying the needs of His servant. [19]Psalms 22.14, 15 describes the suffering of a man and may be similar to Samson’s ordeal, and Jesus Christ’s time on the cross.

and called on the Lord, and said;…in prayer to him. His only resource was prayer to God, who had helped him up to now. We may note, by the way, that the more God gives, the more He encourages us to ask.
thou hast given this great deliverance into the hand of thy servant;…In this line Samson makes reference is to himself as God's servant, a fact that reveals the true heart of the man. In spite of his stupid mistakes, his lustful and sensual life, and his bitter revenge against his enemies, he nevertheless loved the Lord. After all, Samson's enemies were also the enemies of the Lord. He acknowledges the deliverance by the Lord, to be great, as indeed, it was, and that he was only His servant and instrument in it; by which it appears that he did these things in faith, and with a true zeal to glorify God, and deliver his country. Below is a Psalm of David, which tells of when he fled from Absalom his son; but, it could be applied to Samson’s situation.

7 Arise, O LORD; save me, O my God:
for thou hast smitten all mine enemies upon the cheek bone;
thou hast broken the teeth of the ungodly.
8 Salvation belongeth unto the LORD:
thy blessing is upon thy people. Selah.
Psalms 3:7-8 (KJV)

and now shall I die for thirst;… Here is the distress which Samson was in after this great accomplishment: He was sore athirst. It was a natural effect of the great physical and emotional stress he had been in, and the great pain he was in, for he must have received some blows; his zeal consumed him, ate him up, and made him forget himself, till, when he had time to pause a little, he found himself reduced to an almost helpless state, and ready to faint, for want of water. Perhaps there was a special hand of God in it, as there was in the whole incident; and God would use this to keep him from being proud of his great strength and great achievements, and let him know that he was just a man, and likely to have to go through all the calamities that are common to men. And Josephus says, It was designed to chastise him for not making mention of God and his hand in his memorial of the victory he had obtained, but taking all the praise to himself: I have slain a thousand men. Now that he is ready to die of thirst he has become sensible and realizes that his own arm could not have saved him, without God’s right hand and arm. Samson had drunk deeply of the blood of the Philistines, but blood will never quench any man’s thirst. Providence prearranged it, so that there was no water near him, and he was so fatigued that he could not go far to find it. One would think that the men of Judah would have met him, with bread and wine, now that he had come off a conqueror; but they took so little notice of their deliverer that he was ready to die of thirst. It seems like the greatest affronts are often put upon those that do the greatest services. Christ on the cross, said, I thirst.

and fall into the hands of the uncircumcised?...which would be matter of joy and triumph to the Philistines, and mar the glory of the deliverance that the Lord fashioned.

And now shall I die for thirst, and fall into the hand of the uncircumcised? Our translators did not handle this as a question, but as an exclamation, indicating that Samson supposed that his life was about to end.

_______verse 18 notes_________
[18](John 19:28; KJV) 28After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst.

[19](Psalms 22:14-15; KJV) 14 I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels. 15 My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death. Utter exhaustion and hopeless weakness, in these circumstances of pressing danger, are set forth by the most expressive figures; the solidity of the body is destroyed, and it becomes like water; the bones are parted; the heart, the very seat of vitality, melts like wax; all the juices of the system are dried up; the tongue can no longer perform its office, but lies parched and stiffened (compare Ge 49:4 2Sa 14:14 Ps 58:8). In this, God is regarded as the ultimate source, and men as the instruments. the dust of death -- of course, denotes the grave. We need not try to find the exact counterpart of each item of the description in the particulars of our Saviour's sufferings. Figurative language resembles pictures of historical scenes, presenting substantial truth, under illustrations, which, though not essential to the facts, are not inconsistent with them. Were any portion of Christ's terrible sufferings specially designed, it was doubtless that of the garden of Gethsemane.—Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary


19 But God clave an hollow place that was in the jaw, and there came water thereout; and when he had drunk, his spirit came again, and he revived: wherefore he called the name thereof Enhakkore, which is in Lehi unto this day.—Judges 15.19 (KJV)
19 But God clave the hollow place that is in Lehi, and there came water thereout; and when he had drunk, his spirit came again, and he revived: wherefore the name thereof was called En-hakkore, which is in Lehi, unto this day.—Judges 15.19 (ASV)

And God clave an hollow place that was in the jaw, and there came water thereout…The pursuit of the Philistines, and his clash with them, had exhausted Samson, and it was about the time of the wheat-harvest [20](Judges 15:1),and therefore it all took place in hot summer weather; so, he was very thirsty, and feared that he might die from exhaustion. Then he prayed to the Lord, “Thou has through “Thy servant given this great deliverance; and now I shall die for thirst, and fall into the hand of the uncircumcised!” From this prayer we may see that Samson was fully conscious that he was fighting for the cause of the Lord. And the Lord helped him out of this trouble; [25]Isaiah 44:3. God split the hollow place at Lechi, so that water came out of it, as at Horeb and Kadesh ([21]Exodus 17:6, and [22]Numbers 20:8, [23]Numbers 20:11).

The line, And God clave an hollow place that was in the jaw is taken literally by Jarchi and Ben Melech to mean “A socket in which was fastened one of the teeth, and was in the form of a mortar; so, as the word for an hollow place signifies; one of the grinders (molars) was knocked out, and so the place where it had been was left hollow, and out of that sprung a stream or flow of water; which was very wonderful, since out of such a place blood, or decaying matter, would naturally have flowed. The word which is used in [24]Proverbs 27:22 to signify a mortar, is explained by rabbinical expositors as denoting the socket of the teeth, or the hollow place in which the teeth are fixed. Accordingly many have understood the statement made here, as meaning that God caused a fountain to flow miraculously out of the socket of a tooth in the jaw-bone which Samson had thrown away, and thus provided for his thirst. This view is the one upon which Luther's rendering, “God split a tooth in the jaw, so that water came out,” is founded, and has been extensively defended by Bochart (Hieroz. l. ii. c. 15).
Most Bible commentators refute the above rendering by calling attention to a very understandable error in the King James Version, which has: “But God clave a hollow place that was in the jaw, and there came water thereout. That mistake was due solely to the fact that the same word means both the jawbone and the place that was afterward called "Jawbone," or "Lehi." The "hollow place" that God clave was not in the jawbone, but in the place that is named, and the reference would appear to be to a miraculous provision of water to save Samson's life, much as God had done for the children of Israel in the wilderness. This, of course, is proved by the fact that the spring in Lehi was named, "The Spring of the Caller," that is, the "Spring of Him Who Called upon God." In Hebrew, the partridge is called "The Caller"; and thus the spring eventually was called "Spring of the Partridge." We consider that change much more likely than the notion expressed by Moore, that, “The original name was ‘Partridge Spring.’” There could not possibly have been any special reason for such a designation before the event recorded here.

The Targum is, “the Lord clave the rock which was in the jaw;'” which Kimchi interprets thus; the rock was under the jaw and the rock was made as a hollow place, and therefore they call it "mactes", a mortar: the sense seems to be this, that the place on which Samson cast the jawbone was a rock, and there God carved a hollow place, out of which water sprung, and which perhaps was under the jawbone, and sprung under it, and through it; and so Josephus says, when Samson prayed, God brought a sweet and large fountain out of a certain rock; and the words of the text will stand-up to the rendering, "and God clave, an hollow place, which is in Lehi"; that is, in the place called Lehi, (see Judges 15:9 and 14) and not in the jawbone itself.

The right translation of A hollow place that was in the jaw is, "the hollow place which is in Lehi." The word translated "hollow place," means a "mortar" (see [23]Proverbs 27:22), and here it is evidently a hollow or basin among the cliffs of Lehi, which, from its shape, was called "the mortar." A spring, on the way from Socho to Eleutheropolis, was commonly called Samson's spring in the time of Jerome and writers in the 7th, 12th, and 14th centuries.

The remark, which is in Lehi unto this day, could only refer to an actual spring that was still in existence in the historian's own time. Consequently we must go along with Josephus (Ant. v. 8), who takes “jaw-bone (lechi)” as the name given to the opening in the rock, which was carved out by God to let water flow out. “If a rocky precipice bore the name of jaw-bone (lechi) on account of its shape, it was a natural consequence of this figurative label, that the name tooth-hollow should be given to a hole or gap in the rock” (Studer).

and when he had drank, his spirit came again, and he revived;…his spirit was sunk and gone, so to speak, but upon drinking his fill of this water he was refreshed and in good spirits, and became invigorated and lively.

We would be more grateful for God’s mercy in giving us water, if we would only bear in mind how much we need it. Samson’s relief, in this instance, should encourage us to trust in God, and pray to him, because, when he pleases, he can open rivers in [27]high places; See [26]Isaiah 41:17, 18.

wherefore he called the name thereof Enhakkore;…that is, “the fountain of him that was calling;” of Samson that called upon God in prayer, and was heard, in memory of which he gave it this name; the Targum has it, “therefore its name was called the fountain that was given through the prayer of Samson,” to which Samson gave the name, the spring of him that called upon God. Samson gave this expressive name to the miraculously springing water, to serve as a memorial of the goodness of God to him. [28]En-hakkore, the well of him that cried, kept him in remembrance both of his own misery which caused him to pray to the Lord, and the kindness of Jehovah to him in answer to his prayer.

There are many springs of comfort, which God opens to his people that may fittingly be called by the name [28]En-hakkore: and this occasion of Samson's relief should encourage us to trust in God, for when he pleases he can open rivers in [27]high places; [26]Isaiah 41:17, 18.

which is in Lehi unto this day;…In the jawbone does not work, since it is very unlikely that the jawbone lasted until the time of the writer of this book, let alone the spring coming out of it; but the name of the place where this miracle occurred, which was in Lehi, continued to be called [28]Enhakkore unto the time of the writer of this book. And it may be that the fountain itself continued also. Giycas, who lived about six hundred years ago, says that the fountain continued unto his time, and could be seen in the suburbs of Eleutheropolis, and was called the fountain of the jawbone. The spring apparently continued until the time of St. Jerome, and of other later writers, in the seventh, twelfth, and fourteenth centuries.

_______verse 19 notes_________
[20](Judges 15:1;KJV) 1 But it came to pass within a while after, in the time of wheat harvest, that Samson visited his wife with a kid; and he said, I will go in to my wife into the chamber. But her father would not suffer him to go in. 

[21](Exodus 17:6; KJV) 6 Behold, I will stand before thee there upon the rock in Horeb; and thou shalt smite the rock, and there shall come water out of it, that the people may drink. And Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel.

[22](Numbers 20:8; KJV) 8 Take the rod, and gather thou the assembly together, thou, and Aaron thy brother, and speak ye unto the rock before their eyes; and it shall give forth his water, and thou shalt bring forth to them water out of the rock: so thou shalt give the congregation and their beasts drink.

[23](Numbers 20:11; KJV) 11 And Moses lifted up his hand, and with his rod he smote the rock twice: and the water came out abundantly, and the congregation drank, and their beasts also.

[24](Proverbs 27:22; KJV) 22 Though thou shouldest bray a fool in a mortar among wheat with a pestle, yet will not his foolishness depart from him.

[25](Isaiah 44:3; KJV) 3 For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour my spirit upon thy seed, and my blessing upon thine offspring:

[26](Isaiah 41:17, 18; GW) 17 “The poor and needy are looking for water, but there is none. Their tongues are parched with thirst. I, the LORD, will answer them. I, the God of Israel, will not abandon them. 18 I will make rivers flow on bare hilltops. I will make springs flow through valleys. I will turn deserts into lakes. I will turn dry land into springs. Alluding to the waters with which Israel was miraculously supplied in the desert after having come out of Egypt.

[27]high places—bare of trees, barren, and unwatered (Jer 4:11 Jer 14:6). "High places . . . valleys" spiritually express that in all circumstances, whether elevated or depressed, God's people will have refreshment for their souls, however little to be expected it might seem.—Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary

[28]En-hakkorch: The well of him that cried. The fountain received the name of En-hakkore, “the crier's well which is at Lechi,” unto this day (when the author was living). He gave this name to the spot where the water rose, in order to perpetuate the bounty of God in providing him this miraculous supply of water.


20 And he judged Israel in the days of the Philistines twenty years.—Judges 15.20 (KJV)
20 And he judged Israel in the days of the Philistines twenty years.—Judges 15.20 (ASV)

And he judged Israel in the days of the Philistines twenty years…While they had the power over the Israelites, who were not entirely delivered out of their hands by Samson. He only began to deliver them, but did not completely do it; though he often took advantage of them, and there were times that he brought salvations and deliverances to his people, nevertheless he was not the author of their complete salvation (see [29]Judges 13:5), however, he was a check upon the Philistines, and protected the Israelites from more severe oppressions, which otherwise they would have come under; and he, no doubt administered justice and judgment among the Israelites, and was an instrument of their religious reformation, and of preserving them from idolatry; for in such things the work of a judge was chiefly employed: some observe from this, that years of servitude and bondage are included in the years of the judges.

Samson’s government continued after these achievements; he judged Israel… twenty years. In time, Israel submitted to him, though they had betrayed him, because it was no longer disputed that God was with him, so they all accepted him and were directed by him as their judge. The stone which the builders refused became the head-stone. The fact that the government of Israel was dated by the days of the Philistines, implies the low condition of Israel’s citizens; yet it was by the mercy of the Lord to Israel, that, though they were oppressed by a foreign enemy, yet they had a judge that preserved order and kept them from treating one another shamefully. For twenty years his government continued; but we know little of the particulars of it, except for the beginning of his government in this chapter and the end of it in the next.

According to Calmet, the twenty years of Samson’s judgeship began in the eighteenth year of the subjection of Israel to the Philistines; and these twenty years are included in the administration of the high priest Eli.


As long as Samson remained a Nazarite he was unconquerable. Of all the judges, he is the only one that did everything singlehandedly and alone. He never recruited an army from the Israelites. We are not told how he managed his judgeship, where, or at what intervals he conducted his court, nor of any of his judgments. We are not even told what the manner of Israel's life might have been during those twenty years. The tragic end came as recorded in the following chapter.

Samson's prayer for relief from his thirst, Is the only prayer of Samson recorded, except for the one on the occasion of his death. Therefore, this seems to have been some kind of a high point in Samson's life. Dalglish pointed out that all of the bizarre events mentioned in Judges regarding Samson probably required very little time to get done, and that, in spite of his sins and mistakes, Samson nevertheless judged Israel for a period of twenty years; and his exploits kept alive the flame of patriotism during the long Philistine oppression.
It would appear that the Philistines did not attempt to interfere with Samson's judgeship during that twenty years (about 1069-1049 B.C.), except near the end of it, at which time there probably occurred the events of Judges 16.

_______verse 20 notes_________
[29](Judges 13:5; KJV) 5 For, lo, thou shalt conceive, and bear a son; and no razor shall come on his head: for the child shall be a Nazarite unto God from the womb: and he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines. Samson only began this deliverance, for it was not till the days of David that the Israelites were completely redeemed from the power of the Philistines.—Adam Clarke's Commentary


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